Friday, 1 January 2010

Denouncing the EU Lisbon Treaty ─ UK Tories and the long grass

In the blog post Gerald Warner and the Song of Songs of unsophistication (20 October 2009), I rejected Warner’s Telegraph column view that Britain could revoke the Lisbon Treaty and return to the ‘status quo ante’ after the amending treaty has entered into force.

Among news from Statewatch, I just noticed an analysis by Professor Steve Peers: Can the Treaty of Lisbon be denounced after it enters into force? (3 November 2009; 3 pages)

After stating that the Lisbon Treaty contains no express provision permitting it to be denounced by a member state after it has entered into force, Professor Peers presented Article 56 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties regarding treaties which lack a provision regarding termination. He then concluded (page 2):

Moreover, since the Treaty of Lisbon inserts a new clause into the EU Treaty expressly permitting a Member State to withdraw from the EU as a whole, this suggests by ‘a contrario’ reasoning that the parties to the Lisbon Treaty did not intend to create a right for Member States to denounce the Lisbon Treaty.

UK Conservative Party

In my blog post, I said that I was eagerly waiting for David Cameron and William Hague to present their “we won’t let matters rest there” vision on Europe, but that my sincere hope was that they have more sophisticated advisors than Warner.

On 4 November 2009 Tory leader David Cameron showed that he had – at least in part – taken sounder advice than offered by The Telegraph. He acknowledged that the Lisbon Treaty was becoming part of the law of the European Union, and that the Conservative campaign for a referendum on the reform treaty was therefore over.

But, in addition to domestic dams against further EU reform, Cameron promised to renegotiate the return of powers from the European Union concerning social and employment legislation, as well as even more effective opt-outs concerning criminal justice and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Depending on the details, the criminal justice and citizens’ rights might be amenable to political declarations as pacificatory measures in areas where the United Kingdom already is a semi-detached member state.

On the other hand, social and employment law is an issue of substance, even if EU level regulation is patchy. The general view in the European Union is that these are essential flanking policies to the internal market, and the long term trend is to improve the lot of workers and employees.

Proposals to repatriate powers in order to lower standards would be seen as unfair competition, and stiff resistance can be expected from many member states.

At the end of the next parliamentary term, the Tory government would probably have little to show its anti-EU cadres and voters, reintroducing the perpetual question about an In or Out referendum on EU membership.

But perhaps it is enough to have kicked the EU issue into the long grass for one term in office.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Read Diner’s room (in French) and other great euroblogs listed on multilingual, our common “village well” for fact, opinion and gossip on European affairs.